WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The three school committees that make up the Williamstown-Lanesborough Tri-District will meet Tuesday afternoon to discuss their search for a new superintendent.
That meeting took on a new sense of urgency on Monday when Superintendent Rose Ellis told the committees she will retire effective Dec. 31.
Ellis' retirement was announced to the public via a news release distributed on Tuesday morning. She notified members of the Mount Greylock, Williamstown Elementary and Lanesborough Elementary school committees on Monday.
All three bodies already were scheduled to meet jointly on Tuesday at 2 p.m. in the Mount Greylock Regional School meeting room to discuss their strategy going into a superintendent search process.
Ellis told the committees in 2012 that she did not intend to seek a renewal of her current contract, which expires at the end of this academic year.
"We had already begun the process of looking into the future of the superintendent in the Tri-District," Mount Greylock School Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Greene said on Tuesday morning. "What this does is shorten our time frame.
"Whether that will be an interim or a long-term superintendent will be a subject of today's discussion."
Williamstown School Committee Chairwoman Valerie Hall agreed.
"I think Rose [Ellis] really timed this perfectly in that we have Glenn Koocher coming in this afternoon," she said, referring to the executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees.
"That is my No. 1 question to ask him: What are we looking at here? Are superintendents available throughout the year or is it really something that you're hiring for to bring someone on in the summer?"
The last move allowed Ellis to create the Tri-District office and help bring the curriculum of the PreK-12 schools into alignment.
Her arrival at Mount Greylock also helped her to turn around fortunes at the junior-senior high school.
"Speaking from a Mount Greylock perspective, I'm deeply appreciative of the work she put in — her effort, her vision in developing the curriculum and stabilizing the budget and working with Williams College in obtaining funds for professional development and technology," Greene said.
"She has helped re-establish Mount Greylock as a Level 1 school in the state. We were 'needs improvement' when she came on board."
On Tuesday morning, Ellis cited that accomplishments among others that make this the right time for her departure.
"I'm ready," Ellis said. "I had very specific goals that I was committed to. My faculty, staff and community knew what those were. Among those, certainly, were the academic success of the students, and the preliminary results out of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education are encouraging. That's a source of pride for the community."
Ellis said she feels comfortable leaving the schools at this time with the administrators and faculty in place. On a personal level, she is looking forward to birth of a grandchild in the fall.
"It's no surprise, really," she said of her departure. "Last year I encouraged the school committees to think about the search.
"I'm comfortable with the process. I told them I'm available as a resource, but it's their process. I think they have to come to some agreement about where they want to take our schools.
"I feel like I've come down the runway. I've worked with wonderful teachers and paraprofessionals and staff to get to this point. And now we're ready for takeoff. I'm ready to leave the plane and let someone else take it aloft."
Ellis did not cite tension between members of the Lanesborough School Committee and the administration as a reason for her early departure, but she acknowledged that the 2013-14 academic year was a difficult one in that regard.
"Of course, I regret the negativity, the negative energy around Lanesborough," she said. "I regret that it created confusion at times and serious concerns in the community. I attributed that to the inexperience of the [then] chairman [Robert Barton]. ... I think it's always a challenge to come into a new position and on the first day assume the chairmanship.
"However, I feel my energies and those of my staff were focused where the rubber meets the road: what's happening between students and teachers in the classroom. And I think the results, again, will give evidence that Lanesborough is also a successful academic school."
Ellis noted with pride the overwhelming support that the feasibility study for the Mount Greylock building project received at the annual town meeting in Lanesborough and Williamstown. And she said she was relieved this spring when talk of breaking up Superintendency Union 71 died down.
SU71 is a cooperative arrangement between the elementary schools in Williamstown and Lanesborough. SU71 partners with Mount Greylock to support the Tri-District administration.
"I was relieved there was a commitment to work together for the benefit of the students," Ellis said. "We have seen remarkable synergy among the grade levels in making the transition from sixth grade to seventh grade. ... I know many of the school committee members value that. That means a lot to me.
"My goal was to align the academic curricula of the three schools. ... Mount Greylock is as strong as it's ever been, and I'm proud of that."